More than 50 Western Washington University students and graduates received Outstanding Graduate honors for the 2018-19 academic year.
Faculty members from dozens of academic departments and programs select one graduate to honor as the Outstanding Graduate of the year. Selection is a high honor based on grades, research and writing, service to the campus and community, and promise for the future.
The graduates were recognized at spring Commencement June 15. As the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is so large, we have broken it up into its two divisions, Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Outstanding Graduate in Communication Studies
Miranda Abrashi of Flower Mound, Texas, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts and majored in communication studies with a minor in business administration. During her time at Western, Abrashi was involved extensively in various departments, offices, and organizations. She was recognized as Poster Challenge Winner for her Scholars Week presentation on "Finstas" — Instagram users' secondary, less-filtered accounts. She also worked as an Orientation Student Adviser for New Student Services/Family Outreach, photographed an award-winning cover photo for The Planet magazine, and was an instructor assistant for COMM 101. Abrashi served as a Communication Department Ambassador, holding peer advising appointments with students both at Western and Whatcom Community College. She also facilitated QuickStart, a program focused on helping underrepresented students navigate the nuances of higher education. After graduation, Abrashi plans to become an admissions counselor, using her own experiences and knowledge to help make higher education accessible to more people. Eventually, she'd like to pursue a Master's in Business Administration, a law degree or a Ph.D. Abrashi is a graduate of Marcus High School in Flower Mound and is daughter to Kathy and Nick Abrashi.
Outstanding Graduate in East Asian Studies
Kayla Chapman of Lakewood graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts. She majored in East Asian studies and English literature with a minor in Japanese. During her time at Western, Chapman was involved in the Asia University America Program (AUAP), the Japanese Conversational club and the English Conversational Club. She also worked as an International Peer Advisor, and for Extended Education Language Culture Programs. Chapman studied abroad for a year in Tokyo at Asia University, taking regular classes in Japanese as well as Japanese language classes. Chapman says her interest lies in identity politics, intersectional feminism and cultural studies. For Scholars Week, Chapman presented on 18th century laws on marriage and consent to gain a contemporary understanding of oppression of women today. After graduation, Chapman plans to pursue her doctorate in English literature with a focus on Asian American literature. She is a graduate of Lakes High School and is sister to Kendall Chapman, and daughter to Katherine and Bobby Chapman.
Outstanding Graduate in French
Sarah Chute of Bellingham graduated cum laude in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree and University Honors. She double-majored in history and French and minored in Canadian/American studies. Chute completed a capstone project studying runaway slave advertisements in Loyalist newspapers in the Maritime Colonies of Canada. She also studied abroad for a semester in Lyon, France. Outside of class, Chute was a student leader at the INN University Ministries. Next, she will attend graduate school at the University of Vermont, where she'll pursue a master's degree in history, hoping to concentrate on colonial Canadian/American history and the history of slavery. A graduate of Sehome High School, Chute is the daughter of Carrie Chute and the late Harvey Chute.
Outstanding Graduate of English – Creative Writing
Callan Foster of Vashon Island graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts. Foster says there are a lot of little things she's proud of from her time at Western. She maintained a 4.0 GPA, came out, finally read her work at an open mic night, connected with many amazing teachers and students, had her first poem published, and graduated a year early. She interned for the Chuckanut Writers Conference — gaining practical experience in everything from copy editing to publicity. Foster thanks Assistant Professor Jane Wong. "Before taking Jane's intro to poetry class, I didn't write poetry," Foster said. "Now it's all I want to do. I feel like my entire life plan shifted because of her." After graduation, Foster plans to take a year off to rest, work, write and enjoy time with her cat Garbage before pursuing a master's degree in creative writing. Eventually she'll attend law school to focus on either environmental or labor law. Foster is a graduate of Vashon Island High School.
Outstanding Graduate of Philosophy
Phil Fox of Bellingham graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in philosophy and minoring in computer science and mathematics. In addition to completing five independent study courses in philosophy, ranging from ethical theory to modal logic, Fox served as a research assistant for computer science Assistant Professors Moushumi Sharmin and Shameem Ahmed, working on privacy protocol implementation. He also served as a teaching assistant or grader in philosophy and political science, worked as a study group leader and tutor in Western's Tutoring Center, and was a commentator at Western's Northwest Student Philosophy Conference. He was inducted into two national societies, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Fox is a U.S. Army veteran and while attending Western he volunteered as a post officer at the Veterans of Foreign Wars William Matthews Post No. 1585 in Bellingham. Fox received full-ride scholarship and stipend from the National Science Foundation to attend the University of Buffalo for a Master of Science degree in computer science/engineering with an information assurance certificate. Then, he plans to return to work in civil service. Fox is a graduate of Drummond High School in Wisconsin.
Outstanding Graduate in Journalism
Eythan Frost of Snoqualmie graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts and majored in visual journalism with a minor in film studies. During his time at Western, Frost was a photo and video editor for The Western Front and a photo editor for Klipsun Magazine. While Frost was at Klipsun, the publication won a regional Society of Professional Journalists award for Best Student Magazine and will go on to complete at the national level. Outside of academics, Frost is a semi-professional snowboarder. Before coming to Western, Frost took five years off to pursue a career in snowboarding before going back to school. Last summer, he had surgery on his knee and spent this past year recovering. By the end of this year's season, Frost was strong enough to be invited to Superpark, an exclusive event at Crystal Mountain. His passion for snowboarding extended into his internship where Frost worked as a videography intern for The Snowboarder's Journal, an international snowboarding publication based in Bellingham. Frost says the highlight of his time there was capturing and editing the recap video for the Legendary Banked Slalom on Mount Baker. After graduation, Frost plans to keep snowboarding, grow his freelance videography business and eventually pursue a master's degree in journalism. Frost is a graduate of Mount Si High School and is son to Marjorie and Rick Todd, and Darrell and Aide Frost.
Outstanding Graduate of German
Katherine Holdcroft of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in German and creative writing with a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). While at Western, Holdcroft helped to re-establish the German Club and served as the club's vice president and budget coordinator. She also studied abroad in Vienna for a year. Now, after graduation, Holdcroft plans to work and save money in order to move abroad and teach English, write and explore the world. Holdcroft is a graduate of Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea, Hawaii.
Outstanding Graduate in Japanese
Ryn Kaestner (no photo submitted) of Redmond graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majored in Japanese and minored in economics and East Asian studies. He received a Gilman scholarship and studied abroad at Kogakuin University in Hachioji, Japan, and has been accepted into the JET program as an Assistant Language Teacher. He plans to work in Japan for two or three years then see where his skills take him. Kaestner says he started college with nothing and relied on grants, scholarships, loans and working long hours to get through school. "Everything that I have now I achieved through a persistent work ethic and an absolute refusal to quit or fail," he said. Kaestner is a graduate of Edmonds Community College, the husband of Jessica Kaestner and the son of Richard Kaestner and Lanna Benoit.
Susanna "Sukey" Kamkoff
Outstanding Graduate in Liberal Studies
Sukey Kamkoff of Wenatchee graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in humanities - culture and religion with a minor in Spanish. At Western, she completed a senior thesis about women’s perspectives on the renunciatory sexual practices in Tantric Buddhism and among the Bauls, a smaller cultural group in northern India. Kamkoff, a graduate of Wenatchee Valley College, is the wife of Nathan Kamkoff. She now lives in Los Angeles, where her husband is completing graduate school, and she hopes to work either in religious studies in an academic setting or as an assistant in recreational therapy.
Outstanding Graduate in Spanish
Juliet Knowles of White Salmon graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts and majored in Spanish and political science with a minor in international studies. During her time at Western, Knowles served as president of the WWU International Affairs Association and attended multiple regional and national Model United Nations conferences. She and a partner also won an award representing the Lao People's Democratic Republic at the National Model United Nations Conference in New York. Knowles has also served as an Associated Students Board Assistant for Academic Shared Governance and completed an honors thesis for the political science department on women's agency in movements of collective violence. Knowles studied abroad in 2017 in Alicante, Spain where she attended the Universidad de Alicante. She also interned with Fast Enterprises, LLC where she worked with the Washington State Department of Licensing, helping to train staff members to use new software systems. Knowles has accepted a job with Fast Enterprises and will start working there after graduation. Knowles is a graduate of Columbia High School and is daughter to Lorrie and Peter Knowles.
Outstanding Graduate in Chinese
Kendall Kracke of Portland graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in Chinese language and culture. Kracke studied abroad for 11 months at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. She also represented Western in Chinese Bridge, a worldwide competition for speakers of Chinese as a second language, which includes a speech in Chinese, a knowledge quiz on China and a talent. Kracke's speech placed first in Washington and second in the region including California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, and her score qualified her to compete in China this summer. Kracke was also a member of the WWU sailing team and competed twice at the College Sailing Women's Nationals. Next, she plans to work in Qingdao, China, for a year as an English teacher at First Leap English School. She is a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School.
Outstanding Graduate of English – Literature
Patricia Lupardus of Sedro-Woolley graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts. Lupardus had left a career at Amazon because she wanted to make a difference in her community as a teacher. Her faculty nominator, English Professor Bruce Beasley, says Lupardus devoted her work and academic life to lifting up kids in school systems that often ignore their communities and life circumstances. While at Western, Lupardus also served as a classroom volunteer at Sedro-Woolley High school. She received a bachelor's in communication studies from Seattle University in 2015 and now after graduating with another bachelor's degree will begin her master's degree in teaching from Woodring College of Education in the fall. Lupardus is the mother of a 2-year-old son, Thor.
Outstanding Graduate in History
Alyssa Parris of Bothell graduated magna cum laude in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and majored in history/social studies with a minor in English. Her capstone research paper, "Work of Their Own Making: The Indian Child Welfare Act in Washington State" was nominated for the Best Undergraduate Award at the Regional Phi Alpha Theta conference in spring 2018. Parris also worked for Compass 2 Campus as a lead mentor at Lummi Nation School, where she developed a training for fellow students serving as classroom mentors at the school, and later worked as a program assistant for Compass 2 Campus. She was named WWU Student Employee of the Year in 2018. After graduation, Parris worked as a substitute teacher in the Burlington-Edison School District and has now returned to Western for the Masters in Teaching program in order to become a social studies or language arts teacher in a middle or high school. In June, she served as a mentor for the Dare 2 Dream program that brought more than 100 high school students from migrant farmworking families to Western for a week-long residency program. Parris is the daughter of Cory and Leslie Parris and the partner of Alex Rimbey, and she is a graduate of Bothell High School.